Last week you may have seen vultures of the media circling around an unknown Hollywood star that is living with the HIV virus.
Splashed on the front page of a national tabloid, it was clear that these journalists cared more about scare-mongering the public and forcing the star to ‘come out of hiding”. I am sad to see that it is an approach that has worked.
On America’s ‘Today’ show, 50 year old actor Charlie Sheen, known for his role in the sitcom Two and a Half Men, revealed his HIV status in an emotional and heartfelt interview.
The interview carried out by Matt Lauer, began with Sheen giving praise of how sensitively both the production team and Lauer had been over the last few days.
Lauer then stated “There have been a lot of rumours and you would like to address them head on.” Sheen replied simply- “I have to, I have to.”
Charlie seemed incredibly nervous, as you can understand whilst he was revealing such a personal thing about your life to a world you know has been waiting desperately to find out who this ‘mystery star’ is.
Whilst he stuttered, Charlie conveyed himself with grace, humility and honesty as he told the world his story. “I am here to admit that I am in fact HIV positive…I have to put an end to this onslaught, this mirage of attacks….”
Sheen went on to tell us that he has been living with the HIV virus for more than 4 years and that since then, he has been battling with depression and worse still, people threatening to reveal his status, blackmailing him “enough to bring it into the millions”.
A man the world has looked at for his party lifestyle sat in the chair looking uncomfortable and vulnerable- a world away from that almost ‘crazed-man’ interview he gave just a few years ago.
It quickly became clear why- “It’s a hard three letters to absorb. It’s a turning point in one’s life”
Sheen went on to talk about the speculation of his passing the virus on that were reported during the weeks leading up to this interview.
When asked whether he had disclosed his status to all of his sexual partners since diagnosis he replied- “Yes I have, no exceptions.”
Mr. Sheen brought his own doctor to the interview who discussed the medical side of the diagnosis- insisting that despite reports that Sheen has AIDS, he does not.
Dr. Robert Huizenga went on to explain that Sheen has an undetectable viral load. This means that the HIV virus in his body is under control and also means he is highly unlikely to have passed it on since shortly after beginning his treatment of HIV drugs; ART.
Matt Lauer asked Dr, Huizenga directly whether he had concerns about Charlie adhering to his medication routine due to his lifestyle. Huizenga was frank and stated that he has always been anxious about it; whether it be due to his alcohol or substance misuse or the long term battle Sheen has had with depression.
When Sheen was asked whether he has struggled with his 4-pills-a-day, he smiled as he proudly said he had never missed a single pill. Something that is no mean feat when dealing with the issues he has over the last four years.
Charlie made an incredibly heartfelt statement when it came to talking about his history of substance misuse and alcohol consumption. Whist he admitted he is still drinking, he said he had stopped taking drugs, then added “I have a responsibility now to better myself and help a lot of other people”.
The more the interview went on, the freer Charlie looked. Although he didn’t feel this revelation was a choice; it clearly took a huge weight off his mind- “I think I release myself from this prison today.”
When asked if the pressure of blackmailers has contributed to his alcohol consumption, Sheen hopingly responded “perhaps the freedom of today will end that too.”
The interview was uncomfortable viewing for sure! Back in 2012 when I was diagnosed, I was forced to put an end to rumours and mistruths and reveal my own HIV status. Doing that on Facebook and twitter to just a few thousand people felt like the biggest and the hardest thing I had ever faced.
Charlie Sheen did it to millions across the globe; bearing all to settle the vultures appetites that have made a circus out of his life for four years.
Over the last few weeks it has been horrible to watch as the media etched closer and closer into forcing his secret out- and that made me sad for the society we live in.
Journalists have the power to begin a narrative around HIV in a really positive way; education is, and always has been the key here. Instead they chose the ‘scoop’, the scandal and ripping apart the life of a man that deserves privacy like each and every one of you enjoy.
His status should never have been splashed over the newspapers and online; but I am so glad he took the chance to tell his story in a calm and collected way with a journalistic team he clearly trusted, and that even clearer, respected him and how he wanted to do it given the situation.
I look back at the Charlie Sheen from ‘that interview’ and simply wouldn’t recognise him today.
He was incredibly brave. He was open and honest. He was admirable.
The impact he could have is huge. For people to look to him and identify with him as a white, heterosexual male in his 50’s to take a step back and think “you know what, this could be me!”- this is a huge conversation that we couldn’t have started with the same impact that sharing his story will.
Despite his flaws, despite his past and despite his diagnosis- this time, Charlie Sheen really is winning.
Part 1 of Charlie Sheen’s interview:
Part 2 of Charlie Sheen’s interview:
Part 3 of Charlie Sheen’s interview: